The Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane released their new CD last Sunday. I happen to be on it, because Brisbane Chamber Choir doubles as the Cathedral Chamber Choir, but that’s not why I’m sharing this piece with you today. It’s called We Welcome Summer (both this track and the whole album) which is perfectly timed for the beginning of December in Australia. Or so you would think. Last night it was actually cold, and we’ve only had about two minutes of sun in the past 24 hours, so today I’ve decided that I am ironically welcoming summer instead. Or willing it into existence. Since moving to the Sunshine State my body has definitely decided it would rather be on the warm side than on the cool side, which is perfect for about nine months of the year.
I think the thing I love most about this track is the text by Australian poet, cartoonist, artist and whimsical social commentator Michael Leunig. I’ve been a Leunig fan for many years now. I have most of his books (and recall one Christmas when I was most disappointed that my brother was given his latest collection of cartoons and I was given… well… something much less exciting – I can’t remember what). When I lived in Melbourne I would look forward to opening up the Saturday Age for his weekly inspired take on the world. I’ve collected all of his calendars for the past however many years, and even framed a few of the pages to hang on my wall the following year. I am, in short, a fan. Of his work and of his overall philosophy toward life.
I only know of a few of his works that have been set by composers and most of them actually don’t grab me as much as I had expected. But I do enjoy this piece by Clare Maclean. It’s languorous and lazy, just the way a hot summer day feels, when the air is thick and heavy and still and humid, and you don’t feel like doing anything except sitting on the back verandah with a fan blowing on you, a good book in one hand and a bowl of watermelon in the other. And even in the shade you can feel the sun baking the earth, sometimes oppressively. That’s what this music feels like to me.
This particular text is from one of his non-denominational and actually very human prayer collections, called The Prayer Tree:
“We welcome summer and the glorious blessing of light. We are rich with light, we are loved by the sun. Let us empty our hearts into the brilliance. Let us pour our darkness into the glorious forgiving light. For this loving abundance let us give thanks and offer our joy. Amen.”
And just in case you haven’t had the pleasure of being acquainted with Michael Leunig’s other work, here are a few of my favourites.